The air up here

Travel does make an impression on me.  From Northword magazine, June 2007


The Air up Here

By: Russell Bowers

I’m not sure if you’ve looked at a map lately, but my goodness this is a large country!

I’ve just made yet another airborne pilgrimage to Newfoundland. The undertaking boggles the mind to the point that the simple charity of a 5g bag of Sesame snacks brings joy. Or, if you’re in first class, the elite pleasure of a 6g bag of flattened pretzels and a warm towel behind a drawn curtain.

For me, it all starts with a scramble to get to Prince Rupert bus station by 5pm; pointless, actually, since the bus doesn’t leave until 6:20. So I roam around, buy a coffee I don’t really want and some magazines I won’t read, and check the time—I’ve only killed 15 minutes.

Eventually the bus arrives, which takes us to a ferry, which crosses the harbour to Digby Island, where another bus ride takes us to the airport. And then…we wait some more. By 7:30 we’re in the air and on our way to Vancouver— for more waiting.

But for me, it’s the stop in Toronto that will test my soul.

To begin his book, The Long, Dark Tea-Time of the Soul, Douglas Adams observed that the expression “as lovely as an airport” is not in common usage. Toronto’s Pearson International does nothing to change this.

In many ways, the architecture at Pearson is not unlike the city it serves—horribly misguided. While Toronto and this terminal may be the center of many things, the universe is not one of them.

On this recent trip, I morphed into the sort of person for whom I reserve a special place of derision: the hapless soul that travels with a laptop. What happened to me? How did this happen?

I never thought I’d become one of “those people” who fire up their computer and look purposefully at the screen, occasionally tapping keys. Yet there I was, logging on to check my email. It’s 6am in Toronto—3 am back home—what message could I possibly be expecting?

Ah! Finally, the email from Nigeria that’s not a scam! Click here to upload bank records.

Moments later, more good news: rambunctious young children with carry-on bags labeled Barbie and Cars,The Movie are clearly getting on this flight. I’m frazzled already and it’s not even 8am. We won’t be landing in Newfoundland until three in the afternoon, and then getting to my parents’ house in my hometown of Bell Island is still two cabs and a ferry ride away.

My wits and I are about to reach our respective ends, but just before that occurs a new situation has arisen: the clerk tells me my luggage was re-routed in Vancouver and it may not get to Halifax. Since I’m not going to Halifax, I tell her that’s good news.

But, in a flash, my Maiden in Jade comes to my rescue: she promises to track my bags and, for my inconvenience, upgrade me to first class for the rest of the trip.

Still to come is another four hours in the air. And on the other end: no luggage for three days.

But for now, the curtain will be drawn and the pretzels elitely doled out. I relax with my warm towel and, for few moments, I’m flying. And not because of the plane.